Archive Page 2

21
Nov
13

Jackley: Bende died of self-inflicted gunshot

South Dakota Department of Tourism and State Development Secretary Richard Benda ends months of speculation and reveals Hyperion Resources, Inc., as the “Gorilla Project” that has plans to locate an oil refinery in Union County. Benda addressed a standing-room-only crowd of media and interested citizens at a news conference Wednesday, June 13, 2007, in the Union County Courthouse in Elk Point. (Photo by David Lias)

South Dakota Department of Tourism and State Development Secretary Richard Benda ends months of speculation and reveals Hyperion Resources, Inc., as the “Gorilla Project” that has plans to locate an oil refinery in Union County. Benda addressed a standing-room-only crowd of media and interested citizens at a news conference Wednesday, June 13, 2007, in the Union County Courthouse in Elk Point. (Photo by David Lias)

PIERRE, S.D  – Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that the Division of Criminal
Investigation has concluded its investigation into the death of Richard Benda, Sioux Falls.

On October 22, 2013, Benda was found dead in rural Charles Mix County by a family member, which
was immediately reported to local law enforcement. The scene was secured by law enforcement at which
time the Division of Criminal Investigation was contacted and asked to conduct a death investigation. It was determined that date of death was Sunday, Oct. 20.

The autopsy, conducted by the Forensic Pathologist, Minnehaha County Coroner indicates that the cause
of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the abdomen and ruled a suicide. No physical or digital
evidence has been found to indicate foul play.  The investigation scene reconstruction, interviews
conducted, evidence collected at the scene and forensic testing do not indicate foul play and are consistent
with the forensic autopsy findings. The forensic testing included, but was not limited to firearm
functioning, ballistic testing, DNA and fingerprinting.

The Attorney General would like to thank the Charles Mix County Sheriff’s Office and federal authorities
for their assistance during the death investigation. The Attorney General again offers condolences to the
family and friends of Richard Benda during this most difficult time and appreciates the public further
respecting these private family matters. If you have any additional questions please contact Sara Rabern at
605-773-3215.

Benda served as secretary of Tourism and State Development from 2006 to 2010 under former Gov. Mike Rounds.

The day after Benda’s funeral, according to the Associated Press, Gov. Dennis Daugaard acknowledged that an investigation was underway into the Governor’s Office of Economic Development involving possible financial misconduct prior to his administration. Daugaard said there has also been a federal investigation.

After leaving state government, Benda served as loan monitor for the Northern Beef Packers plant in Aberdeen, a project spurred by funds from the federal EB-5 immigration program. Northern Beef is now under federal bankruptcy protection.

The South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development for years contracted with the privately held SDRC Inc. to administer the federal EB-5 program, in which foreign investors can secure permanent residency for as little as $500,000. The program helped fund several large projects in the state.

31
Oct
13

Feds looking into SD beef plant

DIRK LAMMERS, Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Federal authorities are investigating the finances of an idled beef plant and a federal immigration program that supplied much of its funding, two former chief players in the company told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The revelation comes a day after Gov. Dennis Daugaard said the state’s economic development office was being investigated. Daugaard declined to provide details of that investigation, and state officials on Thursday refused to say whether the investigations are the same. News of the probes comes soon after a former top official in the development office was found dead with a gunshot wound.

Dennis Hellwig, who stepped down as Northern Beef Packers’ general partner more than four years ago, and Bob Breukelman, the plant’s former construction engineer, told the AP they have been questioned by federal investigators about the idled Aberdeen plant’s financial dealings and the federal EB-5 program, in which foreign investors can secure permanent residency for as little as $500,000.

“There were some discrepancies in the way the EB-5 program was being handled,” Breukelman said.

Neither Hellwig nor Breukelman would go into detail about the agents’ questions or their responses.

On Wednesday, Daugaard told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader an investigation was underway into the Governor’s Office of Economic Development prior to Daugaard’s administration involving possible financial misconduct. Daugaard declined to provide details of that inquiry, but said there “has also been a federal investigation.”

Daugaard’s statement was made public a day after the funeral of Richard Benda, who was found dead with a gunshot wound on Oct. 22 in a grove of trees near Lake Andes. Benda, who had served as secretary of the department handling tourism and economic development from 2006 to 2010 under former Gov. Mike Rounds, was Northern Beef’s former loan monitor.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said Benda’s death remains under investigation, and a final autopsy report is expected in two weeks to a month.

“We’re treating that as a crime scene because there was a gunshot wound indicated,” Jackley said.

Neither Jackley nor Daugaard’s spokesman, Tony Venhuizen, would comment on whether the investigations Daugaard revealed Wednesday involve Northern Beef, Benda or the Aberdeen-based South Dakota Regional Center, which arranged EB-5 loans to the beef plant and other projects in the state.

Allegations about the South Dakota center have drawn the attention of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley in February sent a letter to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asking the agency to look into the “possible violations.”

Northern Beef Packers opened its $109 million state-of-the-art facility on a limited basis in 2012 after years of delays. Its owners filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection less than a year later, saying they didn’t have enough money to buy cattle for slaughter. With $138.8 million in liabilities and just $79.3 million in assets, according to court documents, the plant laid off most of its employees.

The plant was pitched in 2006 in response to Rounds’ South Dakota Certified Beef initiative. Rounds, who is now running for U.S. Senate, hoped to get the state’s ranchers premium prices by allowing consumers to track animals from birth, through a feedlot and to a meatpacking plant.

Rounds said in a statement issued Wednesday that he “recently became aware of an investigation into some alleged misconduct” but referred all questions to Jackley. Mitch Krebs, Rounds’ Senate campaign spokesman, said Thursday the former governor would not comment further.

Once locally owned, Northern Beef Packers is 41 percent owned by businessman Oshik Song with 69 other South Korean investors who each gave at least $500,000 under the federal EB-5 program. The plant used the funds to spur the start of construction, and Hellwig stepped down as general partner when the Korean investors asked to buy out his shares.

The new owners recruited another round of EB-5 investors, but the new investment fund provided loan money instead of equity shares in the company. Northern Beef eventually began to ramp up production earlier this year to about 200 head a day — far short of the 1,500 capacity — after obtaining additional financing.

Bankruptcy attorneys have asked that a minimum bid of $12.75 million be set for the plant, which is scheduled to be sold at auction on Dec. 5.

___

Online:

EB-5 Program: http://1.usa.gov/16OYBD2

___

Follow Dirk Lammers on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ddlammers/

22
Oct
13

Former SD Secretary of Tourism and State Development dies of gunshot

South Dakota Department of Tourism and State Development Secretary Richard Benda ends months of speculation and reveals Hyperion Resources, Inc., as the “Gorilla Project” that has plans to locate an oil refinery in Union County. Benda addressed a standing-room-only crowd of media and interested citizens at a news conference Wednesday, June 13, 2007, in the Union County Courthouse in Elk Point. (Photo by David Lias)

South Dakota Department of Tourism and State Development Secretary Richard Benda ends months of speculation and reveals Hyperion Resources, Inc., as the “Gorilla Project” that has plans to locate an oil refinery in Union County. Benda addressed a standing-room-only crowd of media and interested citizens at a news conference Wednesday, June 13, 2007, in the Union County Courthouse in Elk Point. (Photo by David Lias)

A statement from Gov. Dennis Daugaard on the passing of Richard Benda, who was Secretary of Tourism and State Development from 2006 to 2010:

“Earlier today, Richard Benda was found near Lake Andes, deceased of a gunshot wound. My thoughts and prayers are with Rich’s family and friends. Although he never worked in my administration, I know many people who knew him and are shocked by this news. As is standard practice, law enforcement is treating the scene as a crime investigation. I would refer any questions as to that investigation to the Attorney General.”

10
Oct
13

Enough misery to go around

Aircraft of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) took to the skies earlier this week to resume their survey over the highways in western South Dakota that were hard hit by last weekend’s snowstorm. CAP aircrews are pinpointing locations where dead livestock are obstructing state highways or are in highway right-of-ways. This information is relayed to the state’s Department of Public Safety so that crews can be sent to remove the carcasses. This mission, which began Tuesday, Oct. 9, continued through Oct. 10 and may be extended depending on the extent of the area the SDWG aircrews can cover and the weather conditions. In addition, South Dakota Wing has received a mission from Pennington County’s Office of Emergency Management to survey the county’s roads and rights-of-way in the northern part of the county for deceased livestock so that crews can be sent to remove those carcasses. This is one of several photos taken during the CAP aerial survey of state highway rights-of-way. (Courtesy of South Dakota Department of Public Safety)

Aircraft of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) took to the skies earlier this week to resume their survey over the highways in western South Dakota that were hard hit by last weekend’s snowstorm.
CAP aircrews are pinpointing locations where dead livestock are obstructing state highways or are in highway right-of-ways. This information is relayed to the state’s Department of Public Safety so that crews can be sent to remove the carcasses. This mission, which began Tuesday, Oct. 9, continued through Oct. 10 and may be extended depending on the extent of the area the SDWG aircrews can cover and the weather conditions.
In addition, South Dakota Wing has received a mission from Pennington County’s Office of Emergency Management to survey the county’s roads and rights-of-way in the northern part of the county for deceased livestock so that crews can be sent to remove those carcasses. This is one of several photos taken during the CAP aerial survey of state highway rights-of-way. (Courtesy of South Dakota Department of Public Safety)

By David Lias

It’s been a tough week in South Dakota.

A freak blizzard that moved into western South Dakota dumped up to four feet of snow in some areas of our state. It was followed by the unusually mild weather our part of the Midwest continues to enjoy this autumn, and the scene that is emerging is not pretty.

Some producers lost up to half of their herds and early estimates listed herd losses in western South Dakota to be five percent of the total cattle supply.

New reports Tuesday list cattle losses at 60,000 head. That was the first of a one-two punch ranchers and other ag producers have received recently thanks to Washington’s inability to pass a new farm bill. The Livestock Indemnity Program in place to limit the losses cattle producers incur from natural disasters expired with the 2008 farm bill on Oct.1, the first day of the government shutdown.

I mention this out of fear that South Dakota cattlemen may be forgotten as the nation focuses most of its attention on what it perceives to be a much greater problem: The Badlands (gasp) are closed.

How will we survive, not only as a state, but also as a nation, as this travesty unfolds?

I urge everyone to keep those cattlemen in mind, for they can provide a vital role during these tough times.

You’ve probably seen the photo of a vacationer hurling a traffic cone in the air at the Badlands in an act of great defiance to Ted Cruz John Boehner the mainstream media Fox News President Obama.

I mean, it must be Obama’s fault, right? After all, he signed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, during his first term in office after Congress passed it. His signature turned the proposal he introduced and Congress approved for health care reform in the United States from an idea into a law that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld as constitutional.

A major provision of the law kicked in on Oct. 1. In great preparation for this day that will live in infamy, the Republican-run House, in late September, ignored a White House veto threat and used a near party-line 230-189 vote to approve legislation denying money for much of the health care law while keeping the government open through Dec. 15. That measure then moved to the Democratic-led Senate.

That inspired tea party Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other conservatives to speak on the chamber’s floor for more than 21 consecutive hours against Obamacare. It didn’t really stop what everyone was predicting all along – the Senate voted 79-19 to end conservative efforts to derail the bill preventing a shutdown, with all Democrats and most Republicans opposing the conservatives. The Senate used a party-line 54-44 vote to remove the House-approved provision defunding Obamacare, and an identical 54-44 vote to approve the overall bill. The bill, financing agencies through Nov. 15, went back to the House.

Just after midnight on Sunday morning Sept. 29, the House used a rare and lengthy weekend session to shift its demands for restricting Obamacare. By a near party-line 231-192 vote, the House voted to delay implementation of the health care law by a year. It also voted 248-174 to repeal a tax on many medical devices that helps pay for the health care overhaul. The votes sent the revamped shutdown bill back to the Senate.

On the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 30, the Senate removed the House provisions postponing Obamacare and erasing the medical device tax. The shutdown bill moved back to the House. That night, the House approves a new shutdown bill with different demands on Obamacare. It would delay for a year the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance, and require members of Congress and their staff to pay the full cost of health insurance, without the government paying part of the costs. The measure bounced to the Senate.

Later Monday night, the Senate voted 54-46 to strip the House provisions on individual health insurance and federal health coverage subsidies for lawmakers and staff. The bill returned to the House.

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, the federal government’s new fiscal year began. With no spending legislation enacted, a partial federal shutdown begins to take effect. Early Tuesday morning, the House voted to stand by its earlier decision, and requests formal negotiations with the Senate. Even later that morning, the Senate rejected the House effort for formal bargaining.

And that’s why the national parks are closed.

To review, the House tried to defund Obamacare. When that measure went to the Senate, it was rejected, and replaced with a bill that would fund all government agencies through Nov. 15. That prompted the House to try to delay Obamacare for a year. Which caused the Senate to remove those provisions. The House reacted by approving a new shutdown bill with different demands on Obamacare, those demands were rejected by the Senate, so no new legislation that authorizes spending for this fiscal year is approved by Congress.

I guess that’s why the traffic cones put in place to block access to the Badlands are all Obama’s fault.

I hope the vacationer who smugly threw the traffic cone continued his journey in West River to visit ranch country, and help a livestock producer count his dead cattle and calves as their bodies emerge from the melting snow. I’m certain the rancher, in his friendly South Dakota manner, would commiserate as he hears the vacationer’s tale of woe of being denied access to a park.

Oh, and The Hill, a newspaper that reports on the happenings in Washington, is reporting that a private gym used exclusively by members of the U.S. House is still open, but because of the shutdown, members of Congress have to pick up their own towels. In fact, members not only have to pick up their towels – they have to reuse them for their showers, because there is no more laundering service.

Such hardship. I’m sure West River South Dakotans will provide wide shoulders for House members to cry on.

10
Sep
13

Governor asks for flags at half-staff Wednesday

PIERRE, S.D. – The White House has issued a proclamation designating Wednesday, Sept.11, 2013, as Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance.

President Obama calls for the flag of the United States to be displayed at half-staff on Wednesday, and he has invited governors of the United States to join in the observance.

At the President’s request, Gov. Dennis Daugaard asks that all flags in the state be flown at half-staff on Wednesday, Sept. 11, from 8 a.m. until sunset in honor of those who lost their lives in terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

29
Aug
13

A successful jump

DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO Gov. Dennis Daugaard made a successful jump from 10,000 feet just before 8 p.m. Aug. 28. Gov. Daugaard agreed to skydive with DeLon Mork, operator of the Madison Dairy Queen, if the restaurant sold 32,000 Blizzards on Miracle Treat Day to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Mork and the restaurant surpassed their goal by selling 38,412 Blizzards.

27
Jun
13

Thune disappointed with immigration reform bill

Sen. John Thune

Sen. John Thune

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, made the following statement today after the Senate passed the immigration reform bill (S. 744):

“Our immigration system is broken and must be fixed, but the legislation passed by the Senate today fails to make the necessary improvements to secure our borders and comes with an enormous price tag to the American taxpayers. I offered a number amendments to the bill that would not only have strengthened border security, but also would have offered accountability to the process by requiring implementation of the border security provisions before granting legal status to over 11 million undocumented residents.

“We need to have an immigration system that not only secures the border and increases national security, but that also reduces the wait-time and simplifies the process for those entering the country legally. Unfortunately, instead of proving to the American public that Congress is serious about border security and enforcing the laws already on the books, the final Senate bill gives weak promises on border security, leaving many aspects of implementation to the discretion of the Secretary. Simply put, the Senate immigration bill is legalization first and empty promises of border security second.

“While we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. I am disappointed that the Senate missed this important opportunity to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system.”




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